Tools You Need for Growing Potted Citrus Trees

I’ve decided to grow a Clementine tree in Zone 4 of the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. But successfully growing potted citrus trees requires a few tools.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Paulette Johnson

Have you ever considered growing citrus fruit trees in pots? Even if you live in an area too cold to support growing citrus trees in the ground, container-grown trees can be kept outdoors in summer and moved indoors for winter, allowing them to thrive and produce fruit in regions far outside their regular comfort zone.

So guess what? I’ve decided to push that approach to the maximum and grow a Clementine tree in Zone 4 of the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.

It might seem risky to try growing a Clementine tree in a region with an average annual minimum temperature of -30 degrees F and a frost-free season that’s frequently shorter than four months. My Clementine tree is supposed to be hardy to around 40 degrees F, and since nighttime temperatures around here are regularly lower than that in the spring and fall, I’ll have to be diligent in keeping an eye on the nightly temperature forecasts.

Read more: These 10 varieties of citrus trees can be grown successfully in pots.

Inside Job

To be on the safe side, I may opt to bring my tree indoors every night, even in the summer.

But that’s okay. I have a couple of suitable south-facing windows where my Clementine tree can still get sunshine. The tree I’ve purchased is a beautiful specimen already more than 4 feet tall, and I’m willing to put in some effort to help the tree thrive no matter what the weather.

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To that end, I’ll need suitable tools and equipment. Even with proper pruning, my Clementine tree is supposed to grow 8 feet tall. At the moment it’s planted in a small pot, so I can easily pick up the tree and move it around. But as it grows taller (and heavier), I’ll have to upgrade to larger (and heavier) pots to accommodate its bigger (and heavier) root ball.

Picking up an 8-foot tree in a large pot isn’t a job for the faint of heart.

Read more: Check out our simple guide to yard carts!

Roll with It

One option I’ll consider is attaching casters to the pot so it can be rolled from one location to another without having to pick it up. That’s probably the best long-term solution, though another option (if installing casters on a pot proves difficult) would be to strap the pot to a flatbed yard cart and move the tree in this manner. That might even be easier, since a yard cart offers a broad wheelbase (for better stability) and a long handle for convenient pulling.

I should also invest in a soil moisture tester. I understand that it’s easy to overwater potted citrus trees, but I don’t want to underwater either. With a soil moisture tester, I can determine with confidence when my Clementine tree needs water.

Anyone seeking to follow my example and grow a potted citrus tree should consider picking up some bungee cords as well. In its current small pot, my Clementine tree is decidedly top-heavy. Any meaningful wind would be sufficient to topple it over.

That’s why I’m keeping the tree on my porch at the moment, where I use bungee cords to lightly tie the pot and trunk to the porch railing. The wind won’t topple the tree on my watch!

Growing potted citrus trees comes with challenges, but I’m excited by the possibilities and eager to enjoy the first harvest, which can’t come soon enough.

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